239 Days in America, Day 11: April 21, 1912 | Washington, DC

Washington High Society Receives ‘Abdu’l-Bahá 1

Every afternoon at 5 p.m., members of Washington’s elite sought out ‘Abdu’l-Bahá at the Parsons’s home: members of the House of Representatives, of the Senate, and of the Cabinet; Justices of the Supreme Court; officials of foreign embassies; and men of science such as Alexander Graham Bell and Admiral Robert Peary.

Agnes [Parsons] 2 had built a large, bright ballroom to the left of the front door especially for this purpose. It was twenty-five feet wide by fifty feet long, decorated in white with yellow silk curtains, and it seated 150 people. Carved garlands blanketed the ceiling, the paneled walls, and the high mantel at one end of the room. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spoke from a platform in front of the mantel, behind a bank of American Beauty roses that were delivered fresh every day. As the days passed, the crowds grew bigger.

Yet ‘Abdu’l-Bahá didn’t come to Washington simply to meet the nation’s wealthy and powerful. He also intended to assail America’s biggest taboo – the issue of race.

Washington D. C. 3

At 4:00 P.M. He [‘Abdu’l-Bahá ] spoke at the Universalist Church at 13th and L Streets to more than one thousand persons, who had started filling the auditorium an hour before time for the service to begin, In introducing Him the Reverend John Van Schairk, Jr., pastor of the church, said, “After arrangements for this meeting had been made, I received a letter warning me that I should be false to my belief if I held it… Against such narrowness this Church has always stood. We stand today humbly seeking the Spirit of Truth…” 4 ‘Abdu’l-Bahá then addressed the gathering…

Talk at Universalist Church, Thirteenth and L Streets, Washington, D.C.

All the existing nations had a divine foundation of truth or reality originally, which was intended to be conducive to the unity and accord of mankind, but the light of that reality gradually became obscured. The darkness of superstitions and imitations came and took its place, binding the world of humanity in the chains and fetters of ignorance. Enmity arose among men, increasing to such an extent that nation strove against nation in hatred and violence. War has been a religious and political human heritage.

Now it is enough! We must investigate reality. We must put away these superstitions. It is a self-evident truth that all humanity is the creation of God. All are His servants and under His protection. All are recipients of His bestowals. God is kind to all His servants. At most it is this: that some are ignorant; they must be educated in order that they may become intelligent. Some are immature as children; they must be aided and assisted in order that they may become mature. Some are sick and ailing; they must be healed. But the suffering patient must not be tested by false treatment. The child must not be warped and hindered in its development. The ignorant must not be restricted by censure and criticism. We must look for the real, true remedy. 5

Sunday, April 21, 1912

The highlight of the day was a very important and well-attended meeting at the Universalist Church. The minister of the church introduced ‘Abdu’l-Bahá with a most glowing tribute to His life and teachings. Then the Master rose from His seat and delivered an address on the need for cooperation, love, friendship and universal peace. He stressed Christ’s statement that ‘I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth’ [John 16:12-13], and added, ‘And now that time has come and the Divine Spirit has spoken, revealing all truth.’ …

I will now pray on your behalf:

“O Lord! These Thy servants have assembled here out of pure love. They have gathered together in perfect accord and harmony. O God! Illumine their faces, make joyous their souls with Thy most great glad tidings. Brighten their eyes with the verses of Thy guidance and delight their ears with the melody of Thy sweet voice.

O Lord, we are wrongdoers; forgive us. We are sinners; grant us Thy pardon. Shelter us in Thy refuge. Satisfy the needy through Thy forgiveness. Free us from the world of vain imaginings and guide us to the Truth, that we may seek the divine reality, shun the mortal world, approach the divine kingdom and, withdrawn from the world of darkness, enter the realm of light.

Deliver us from the darkness of material existence and illumine us with the rays of the infinite realm. Make us the manifestations of Thy light and the dawning places of Thy signs. Turn us from all else save Thee and cause us to become the recipients of Thy mysteries. Thou, O God, art the Compassionate, the Wise, the Forgiving, the Mighty.” 6

  1. Menon, Jonathan. “‘Abdu’l-Bahá Goes to Washington.” 239 Days in America, April 20, 2012. https://239days.com/2012/04/20/abdul-baha-comes-to-washington/.
  2. Reneau, Annie. “Shining Lamp: Agnes Parsons (1861-1934),” Brilliant Star, September 28, 2017. https://brilliantstarmagazine.org/articles/agnes-parsons-1861-1934.
  3. Ward, Allan L. 239 Days: ʻAbdu’l-Bahá’s Journey in America. Wilmette, Ill: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 1979, 39.
  4. Hannen, Joseph H. “Abdul-Baha in Washington, D.C.” Star of the West, April 28, 1912.
  5. ʻAbduʼl-Bahá. The Promulgation of Universal Peace: Talks Delivered by ʻAbduʼl-Bahá during His Visit to the United States and Canada in 1912. Edited by Howard MacNutt. 2nd ed. Wilmette, Ill: Baháʼí Publishing Trust, 1982, 39-40. https://www.bahai.org/library/authoritative-texts/abdul-baha/promulgation-universal-peace/3#593384709.
  6. Mahmud-i-Zarqani, Mirza. Mahmúd’s Diary: The Diary of Mírzá Mahmúd-i-Zarqání Chronicling ’Abdu’l-Bahá’s Journey to America. Edited by Shirley Macias. Translated by Mohi Sobhani. Oxford: George Ronald, 1998. https://bahai-library.com/zarqani_mahmuds_diary&chapter=2#section28

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